Somalia drought: Why people urgently need UK aid

Somalia is facing a multi-layered humanitarian crisis caused by climate change, conflict, and the coronavirus pandemic

A rapidly worsening drought is putting hundreds of thousands of lives at risk in Somalia and Somaliland.

CARE Somalia/Somaliland Country Director Iman Abdullahi says:

The humanitarian situation in the country is dire as dry conditions have escalated to a drought. Villages have completely run out of water and are now relying on humanitarian agencies to support through water trucking which is not adequate to meet the need.

A dried-up reservoir in Somaliland
A dried-up reservoir in Somaliland

Iman Abdullahi says:

Our teams on the ground have witnessed communities drinking contaminated water putting them at risk of waterborne diseases. Some parents have told us that they have already started to go for a whole day without drinking any water as they are choosing to give the little water available to the children.

Halima at dried-up reservoir in Somaliland

Halima Mohamud, a 40-year-old mother living with 8 other family members in a camp for displaced people, is one such parent. She says:

We are the people affected by the drought and we lost all our livestock.

After we lost all our livestock, we would be supported by the neighbours and other families.

The situation has now worsened because we are facing another drought which has caused a lack of water, thirst, hunger – and misunderstandings between families because of food rationing.

We would like to request for assistance from NGOs to provide us with water and food.”

Halima’s request comes at a time when the UK government is cutting UK aid for water projects by 80%, according to a report on the BBC website.

And it comes at a time when UK aid to Somalia is being cut by 60%.

Halima says:

In this IDP [internally displaced people] camp, there are poor people and disabled people such as blind people; we have sick people and very weak people.

We are urgently requesting the humanitarian agencies to assist us with whatever they can.

Ubax at an IDP camp in Somaliland

Ubax Abdi Ibrahim is a 25-year-old mother of 4 children. She says:

We were pastoralists and we were affected by the previous drought and we moved here after we lost all our livestock to the drought. We have been living in this IDP camp for the past four years.

Now this current drought has found us here. The situation is worsening. We do not have any livestock. We lost our primary source of income.

The people living in this IDP camp do not have water and food because we do not have any source of income.

Tents at IDP camp in Somaliland
Tents at an IDP camp in Somaliland

Ubax says:

Sometimes in this household, we only take one meal per day. This is because we do not have anything to eat. Sometimes we get something small to eat while sometimes we do not.

Our situation is extremely hard. We are urgently requesting aid assistance from NGOs.

The situation in Somalia is being driven by climate change, conflict, and the coronavirus pandemic which together have created a multi-layered humanitarian crisis. The current severe drought is only making things worse – and women and girls are being hardest hit.

CARE Somalia/Somaliland Country Director Iman Abdullahi says:

Women in Somalia/Somaliland have been disproportionately affected by the current humanitarian situation.

“With many families struggling to put food on the table, many girls have been forced out of school as the families cannot afford to pay school fees.”

When schools were closed during the lockdown, there was an increase in the practice of female genital cutting, which greatly impacts the physical and mental health of girls.

“We fear that more girls will be married off early as families look for ways to cope with the current harsh economic conditions.”

As more water points dry up, women and girls are forced to walk long distances to get water, putting them at risk. In addition, the burden of caring for COVID-19 infected family members has fallen on the shoulders of women, increasing the risk of them contracting the virus.

People getting water at a water point in Somaliland
People getting water at an IDP camp in Somaliland

CARE is supporting communities with water and disbursing cash to assist with immediate food needs. CARE is also providing primary health services, feeding programs for infants and children, and treatment for those with moderate and severe acute malnutrition. Sexual and gender-based violence has also increased during the pandemic and CARE is also supporting survivors with clinical and psychosocial support.

But the need is much greater than we can meet – especially coming at a time when the UK government is cutting humanitarian aid funding by £500 million. Iman Abdullahi says:

We urge donors to increase funding so we can implement a rapid and robust response to these multiple crises. We have the ability to avert a potential humanitarian catastrophe, and we can’t do it alone. We call upon the global community not to ignore the looming crisis here, and to donate or support in other ways so we can save lives.

The UK Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, has said that cuts to humanitarian aid funding reflect a “strategic shift” in UK aid spending. The UK government has also said East Africa is a strategic priority – and yet aid is being reduced by 60% at a time of crisis.

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News and stories are provided by CARE staff working to support our emergency responses and long-term development programmes.